Hospital overspending sparks fears of cutbacks


Seven hospitals in the West and North West have exceeded their budgets by more than €27 million, it was claimed today.

Fine Gael claims cutbacks are now inevitable because resources for day to day services are overstretched.

Front bench spokesman Denis Naughten said: "Public health services are already being curtailed in the North East region due to overspends.

"There is a very real risk that this will be replicated in the West and North West, where hospitals had overspent their budget by €27 million by the end of May."

The figures showed that Letterkenny General Hospital overshot its budget by €8.03 million followed by University College Hospital in Galway on €6.2 million.

Sligo General Hospital went €4.8 million over budget while Mayo General and Portinuncula exceeded spending by €4.1 million and €2.4 million respectively.

Merlin Park Hospital in Galway City went €642,000 over while the County Hospital Roscommon exceeded by €970,000.

Mr Naughten warned that the HSE would now seek to curb spending in these hospitals, with a direct impact on patient services.

"These cutbacks will have a detrimental effect on patient services, curtailing elective surgery and affecting the most vulnerable patients. "The overnight trolley count hit a high of 241 earlier this month, and is bound to rise this winter."

Fine Gael claimed the overspend in hospitals is just one symptom of the HSE's own illness — the imbalance between the ballooning number of backroom staff, and the medical staff at the frontline who are struggling to cope.

Mr Naughten added: "Meanwhile, key positions remain unfilled and services are being affected, like the six year old child waiting since May 2005 for an appointment with an occupational therapist.

"Instead of taking immediate steps to tackle the root causes of hospital overspending, such as the lack of community care services and the underdeveloped level of primary care, the HSE's solution will be to impose cutbacks in patient services.

"The HSE's approach is to close the door after the horse has bolted instead of investigating why the door was left open in the first place.

"In a country that has over 30,000 millionaires it is a damning indictment of the Government's commitment to our health services that we are faced with cutbacks in this already depleted service."